NFL 2009–Week 15 Recap

Quoth football philosopher John Randall…This is when the big dogs come out.

While some have claimed that two unbeaten teams played this weekend, a third team played yesterday.

The league is Planet Social Sports. My team is “Kiss Da Baby,” formerly known as “Slamathon.” I am now a two time champion, and several of my teammates have five championships.

The theme for the week was “holiday.” Most of my teammates wore Christmas stockings and Santa Hats. Andrew looked like Santa, if Santa was a pirate, with one Santa leg, and one leg rolled down. I wore a blue and white Hanukkah shirt before the game.

As for the playoffs, this one was tougher than the last one. Last time it seemed everything came easy, even though we had to play 3 games as a Wild Card. This go round featured some close games in the regular season. Despite playing only two playoff games, it was grueling.

Our captain, Scotty Tecate, is leaving for Virginia. This was his final Saturday with the team. Our first playoff game was deadlocked 12-12 in the second half, when we decided to go for it on 4th down. Scotty went for the Hail Mary, and Chris Steck did an imitation of Chris Carter, outjumping double coverage for a miracle touchdown. We made the 2 point conversion (We go for 2 every time) and led 20-12. The opponents scored again, but we stopped the 2 point conversion to lead 20-18. Scotty methodically worked the clock, and despite a tough game all around, a final touchdown pass iced the 28-18 win and sent us to the finals.

In the championship game, we actually fell behind 7-0, and at the half were clinging to an 8-7 lead. Then something occurred that still has me shaking my head. Neighbors tried to have our game shut down. This is an official league, and we had every right to use the field. Our team was accused of drinking in the park. I do know that my teammates consume vast amounts of alcohol, but these ridiculous accusations led to some crusader threatening to call the police.

We refused to stop playing, since by the time the police would have arrived, the game would have been over. This is Los Angeles, and the LAPD has better things to do than harass people trying to play football in the park. I was drinking red Gatorade that teammate Brittany bought for me, so if the officers wanted to see my Gatorade I would have showed it to them.

These games had been delayed an entire week due to inclement weather. Yet neither rain or threats of police harassment from pathetic park crusaders were going to deny this team. A touchdown had us up 14-7, but the other team would not give up. They went for the tying touchdown, but Steck intercepted it by the goal line. Once again Scotty milked the clock, and a critical 4th down completion kept things moving. The score was more lopsided than the actual game, but we withstood a furious late rally and won 20-7.

Scotty retired after the game. So did I, but under questioning from Brittany, I already started waffling. Hey, not only do I debate more than Brett Favre, but I have two championships to his one.

While I may or may not be retiring from football, my sneakers are definitely being retired. In honor of Brett Favre, who plays for the Vikings, my sneakers are being given a Viking funeral. The soles have completely come off, and not even ductape can keep them together. They have ruined several pairs of socks.

Some may say they looked disgusting, but when you have a couple championships, everything looks gorgeous.

While nothing on Sunday reached the level of significance as Kiss Da Baby Saturday, the Colts and Saints tried to copy the 1972 Dolphins and 2009 Kiss Da Baby team by ending the season perfect.

The games speak for themselves. This is the Week 15 NFL Recap from my football palace in Los Angeles.

Indianapolis Colts      @      Jacksonville Jaguars was the Thursday night game. Despite locking up the # 1 seed, the Colts played their starters the entire game against a desperate Jacksonville team. The game itself was a thriller, with 8 lead changes and 0 punts by either team in the first three quarters. David Garrard was 23 of 40 for 223 yards and 3 touchdown passes. Peyton Manning was 23 of 30 for 308 yards and 4 touchdowns. Each quarterback was picked off once.

The first quarter started very slow. Garrard led a 13 play, 7 1/2 minute drive. On 3rd and 1 from the Indy 22, Garrarrd was sacked and fumbled. Jacksonville fell on the ball after a 10 yard loss, and Josh Scobee nailed a 50 yard field goal to have the Jaguars up 3-0. Manning came back with an even longer 14 play, 8 minute drive that extended into the second quarter. Manning hit Dallas Clark from 6 yards out. The Colts led 7-3, but the second quarter was about to become a track meet.

Garrard led the Jaguars right back with an 11 play, 6 yard drive that culminated in  a9 yard touchdown pass from Garrard to Maurice Jones-Drew to put the Jaguars up 10-7. Yet 13 seconds later Chris Simpson had the Colts back on top 14-10 with a 93 yard kickoff return. 10 plays and 5 minutes later, and the Jaguars were in front again. Garrard hit Lewis for 25 yards, and Jones-Drew ran it in from 3 yards out.

With only 3 minutes left in the half, Manning took over and hit Reggie Wayne for 22 yards and then Collie for a 23 yard touchdown and a 21-17 Colts advantage. There were 5 lead changes in the second quarter alone. A short kick had Jacksonville at their own 41 with 35 seconds left in the half. The Jaguars reached the Indy 39, but a 57 yard Scobee field goal attempt was no good as the half ended.

On the first drive of the second half Manning was intercepted, setting up Jacksonville at the Colts 39. On 4th and 1 from the 30, Jack Del Rio decided to go for it. Garrard snuck for the first down. On 3rd and 11 from the 16, Garrard hit Sims-Walker for the score and the 24-21 Jaguars lead. Manning came right back and hit Wayne for 21 yards on 3rd and 8, and then found Clark for the 27 yard touchdown to give the Colts the lead back at 28-24. A 43 yard kickoff return had the Jaguars starting at the Indy 46. Garrard hit Torry Holt for 17 yards, and Thomas for the 13 yard touchdown as the Jaguars led 31-28.

Seconds into the fourth quarter, Manning fired incomplete on 3rd and 3, and the game had its first punt. The pace slowed, and the Jaguars punted for the first time as well a couple of minutes later. Manning then led the Colts from their own 10 to the Jacksonville 43, but then moved backwards as the Colts punted again with 7 1/2 minutes left. Jacksonville from their own 7 went 3 and out, and the Colts had the ball on their own 30. On 3rd and 5 from the 35, Manning threw the bomb to Wayne, and the result was a 65 yard touchdown and the game’s 9th lead change. The Colts were up by 4 with 5 1/2 minutes left.

The Jaguars went nowhere, and with 2 1/2 minutes left Del Rio decided to punt and rely on his defense despite the game being a shootout. The Colts used only 25 seconds of clock, and the Jaguars got the ball back at their own 39 with 2:06 left. Garrard hit Holt for 14 yards, and on 3rd and 6 from the Indy 43, a surprise run call worked perfectly as Jones-Drew picked up 10 yards. With 1:05 left, on 3rd and 10 from the Indy 33, Garrard was intercepted. Despite playing well all game, one mistake was one too many against the undefeated Colts. Jim Caldwell has seen his Colts go to 14-0. As for whether they will rest players or chase history, we will know next week. 35-31 Colts

Dallas Cowboys      @      New Orleans Saints was the Saturday night game. Indianapolis scraped by to remain unbeaten, while the Saints were trying to do the same. The Saints at least were at home, and against a Dallas team that keeps being told it cannot win in December. Wade Phillips and Tony Romo are under fire, and Jerry Jones is on the verge of cleaning house. having to go on the road to face Sean Payton, Drew Brees, and the unbeaten Saints almost did not seem fair.

The Saints, like Indy and any other very good team, has won some games by the skin of their teeth with some dumb luck. A couple of weeks ago they trailed Washington by 7 points. Washington had a 23 yard field goal attempt to make it a 10 point game. That would have iced it. The only thing that was iced was the Washington kicker, who choked. The Washington defense then fell apart and the Saints escaped with a win. This game looked like a repeat as Dallas jumped on top early.

In a surprising beginning, the Saints went 3 and out. Then Romo took over, and heaved a 49 yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin for a 7-0 Cowboys lead. The Saints again went 3 and out and the Cowboys took over at their own 40. On 3rd and 5 Romo hit Roy Williams for 14 yards and then completed a 26 yard pass to Austin. When Marion Barber ran it in from 3 yards out, the Cowboys had a shocking 14-0 lead as the Saints had failed to make a first down.

The pace of the game slowed in the second quarter as Brees led a 12 play drive from the Saints 9 to the Cowboys 16. The drive went no further, as a field goal had the Saints on the board down 14-3. The Saints got the ball back at their own 10, and Brees led them to the Dallas 41 at the 2 minute warning. Brees then went deep and was intercepted. The Saints got the ball back again at their own 30 with 1:22 left in the half, when disaster struck. All game Brees was harassed by Spencer and Demarcus Ware. Ware went off the field on a stretcher last week, and he showed plenty of heart in this game. He forced a fumble and Spencer fell on it, setting up a field goal before the half and a 17-3 Cowboys lead.

The Cowboys took the second half kickoff and began at their own 26. Romo led a 13 play, 7 minute drive. When Marion Barber ran it in from 2 yards out, the Cowboys were cruising at 24-3. The Saints trailed Miami 24-3 and came back to win, but that was in the first half. This game was laready midway through the third quarter. The Cowboys still led 24-3 entering the fourth quarter.

Breees finally got going in the hurry up offense, hitting Thomas for 13 yards, Marques Colston for 15 more, and Thomas for another 18, setting up a one yard touchdown run by Bell. 12 1/2 minutes remained in regulation, and the Saints were within 24-10. The Cowboys returned the kickoff to their own 40, but failed to pick up a first down and punted. Brees then fired to Thomas for gains of 29 and 12, to Colston for 10, and to Moore for the 7 yard score. The Saints were within 7 points with 8 minutes still to play.

The Saints had all the momentum and the crowd was fired up. Yet Tony Romo, as he has done before, dug down deep. On 3rd and from the Dallas 23, the Cowboys were one play away from giving the ball back again. Instead Romo hit Austin for 32 yards and to Phillips for 23 more. The clock wound down, and with 2:19 to play the Cowboys faced 4th and 5 at the Saints 6. Much maligned kicker Nick Folk came in for a chip shot. For the second time in 3 weeks, the Saints were about to lose if a kicker could make a kick barely more than an extra point.

Nick Folk summoned up his inner Shawn Suisham and blew it. He doinked it right off the upright. Suisham has since been cut, and Folk may join him. To quote Paul Maguire, “I hate kickers. They should be paid $50 a game.” The Saints had life at their own 20. With 1:27 to go, the Saints faced 4th and 10. Brees hit Colston for 14 yards. With 38 seconds left, on 3rd and 5 from their own 39, Brees hit Thomas for 6 yards. With 12 seconds remaining, the Saints had reached the Dallas 42. Brees set up for the fantastic finish. Instead he was sacked by Ware, forcing a fumble that the Cowboys recovered to end the game.

Those that have been lambasting Phillips and Romo can sit down now. Phillips dialed up blitzes that harassed Brees all game. Romo finished 22 of 34 for 312 yards and one touchdown. Brees was 29 of 45 for 298 yards and one touchdown, and one interception. The Cowboys improved to 9-5, still in the hunt to win their division. The Saints were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten, and at 13-1 still have Minnesota breathing down their necks. As Chris Berman keeps reminding us, “That’s why they play the games.” 24-17 Cowboys

Cleveland  Browns    @      Kansas City Chiefs–For some unknown reason this game was played. Sometimes bad teams can come together and play an exciting game. The theme this year is that this has not been happening. Yet like the earlier Cleveland game against Detroit, this game actually was exciting. Early on it was as dull as expected. When the teams exchanged field goals to make it 3-3, it appeared that those who predicted a scoreless game were wrong. Even more stunning was the fact that this first half turned into a ridiculously exciting game. The Browns do have one exciting player, as Joshua Cribbs did it again. A 100 yard kickoff return had the Browns up 10-3. Early in the second quarter Phil Dawson connected on a 30 yard field goal as the Browns led 13-3.

The Chiefs stormed back in the second quarter. Matt Cassel found Chris Chambers for a 9 yard touchdown as the Chiefs got to within 13-10. Jamal Charles then ran for a 47 yard touchdown as the Chiefs led 17-13. Then a fumbled special teams play  by the Browns gave the Chiefs a gift touchdown and a 24-13 lead. Studebaker fell on the ball in the Cleveland end zone for the Chiefs. Yet just when the game had completely swung, it swung back. Joshua Cribbs is insane. He bested his 100 yard return with another one, this time from 103 yards. The Browns may have no offense, but the Chiefs seem to have no special teams coverage. The Browns were down 24-20 in this game of monster big plays.

The third quarter featured more rapid moves as Jerome Harrison ran for a 71 yard touchdown to put the Browns back in front 27-24. Harrison had 200 yard rushing after 3 quarters and was not done. In the fourth quarter Brady Quinn led an 14 play, 79 yard drive with large doses of Harrison eating up 8 minutes of clock. In the red zone Harrison was stopped on 3rd and 1, but Eric Mangini decided to go for it before the Walrus, Mike Holmgren, comes in and fires him. Brady Quinn faked the pitch, and picked up the first down and more. Harrison then ran it in from 10 yards out to give the Browns up 34-24 with 12 minutes remaining in regulation. A 33 yard pass fro Matt Cassel to Chris Chambers led to a 27 yard Ryan Succop field goal as the Chiefs got to within 34-27 with 8 minutes left.

With 4 1/2 minutes left, a 52 yard field goal attempt by Phil Dawson was just short as it remained a one score game. From their own 42, Cassel fired to Chris Chambers. It bounced off his hands into the hands of Dwayne Bowe for a 23 yard gain. On 4th and 6 from the 12, Cassel hit Bradley for the touchdown to tie the game 34-34 with 2:20 to play. Cleveland took over t their own 30. On 3rd and 1 from their own 39, Brady Quinn scrambled for 24 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Chiefs 28, Harrison ran for the touchdown with 52 seconds remaining. Harrison finished the day with 286 yards rushing, just shy of the NFL record. Kansas City took over at their own 19, and Cassel fired 33 yards to Bradley. With 7 seconds left, Cassel threw the Hail Mary from the Cleveland 26. It fell incomplete, and the Browns won an exciting game. 41-34 Browns

Atlanta Falcons      @      N.Y. Jets–The Falcons were eliminated the day before, and were on the road against a New York team fighting to stay alive in the playoff chase faced off. Matt Ryan, who like Tom Brady has two first names and no last name, is an non-descript white guy the Falcons are glad to have back from injury. The Falcons took the ball right down the field, but on 3rd and goal at the one, Snelling got stoned. Mike Smith, an average non-descript white guy who looks like a guy named Mike Smith, opted for the field goal. Neither Shawn Suisham or Nick Folk are his kickers, and the 24 yard kick was good as the Falcons led 3-0. Yet Mark Sanchez came right back, as a 65 yard touchdown bomb to Braylon Edwards had the Jets up 7-3. The Falcons had the ball for over 11 minutes in the first quarter yet trailed.

In the second quarter the Jets blew a chance to extend the lead on a short field goal. Backup quarterback Kelly Clemens was the holder, and he fumbled the snap and then got blasted. Any further description of the second and third quarters would be unfair to the game of football as Rex Ryan saw his defense maintain the 7-3 Jets lead into the fourth quarter. Between a missed field goal and a fumbled snap, the Jets tried a new way of failing to extend the lead late when a high snap led to a blocked field goal as the score stayed unchanged with 4 1/2 minutes left in the game.

The battle of who wanted it least did lead to an exciting finish in an otherwise dreary game. Ryan led the Falcons to a first and goal at the Jets 6 at the 2 minute warning. On 4th and goal, with everything on the line, Ryan fired the touchdown to Tony Gonzalez as the Falcons now led by a field goal with 1:38 to play. Sanchez was the intercepted to seal the Jets fate as both teams are now 7-7 and the jets are on life support. 10-7 Falcons

Miami Dolphins      @      Tennessee Titans–A pair of teams clinging to playoff life faced off as the 7-6 Dolphins took on the 6-7 Titans. Vince Young began with a pass into coverage that was batted around by 3 players before being intercepted on an acrobatic tip drill. This led to a field goal and  a 3-0 Dolphins lead. Young quickly rebounded, and an 81 yard, 10 play drive was capped off with Young hitting Justin Gage for a 22 yard touchdown and 7-3 Titans lead.

In the second quarter a promising Miami drive was wasted when Ricky Williams got blasted in the red zone and fumbled. Chris Johnson ripped off big gains on the ground in his quest to reach 2000 yards, but the drive stalled inside the Miami 10 yard line. In a year of terrible field goal kicking, Rob Bironas barely snuck a 27 yard field goal inside the upright as the Titans led 10-3. Miami came back down the field, but Chad Henne could not get them past the 10 yard line, and another field goal had the Dolphins within 10-6. Yet Vince Young came right back, again going to the end zone for Justin Gage. Despite perfect defense, Gage made the acrobatic 21 yard touchdown reception as the Titans led 17-6.

In the third quarter Young went to the end zone to Nate Washington, who hauled in the 32 yard touchdown to give the Titans a comfortable 24-6 lead. Comfortable did not last. Miami kicked a field goal to trail 24-9 entering the fourth quarter. With 12 1/2 minutes to play, Jeff Fisher decided not to gamble on 4th and 1 from the Miami 42. Miami took over at their own 20. Chad Henne led a 12 play drive. He hit a 19 yard completion to Ted Ginn, and Miami then faced a critical 4th and 2 from the Tennessee 29. Henne hit Haynos for 10 yards. Henne hit Fasano for 18 yards, and Ricky Williams ran it in from one yard out to make it 24-16.

The Titans punted again, and Miami took over at their own 10 with 4 1/2 minutes left. On 3rd and 1 from the 19 Henne hit Camarillo for 10 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Miami 32, Henne went deep to Hartline for a 57 yard gain to the Tennessee 11.  On 3rd and 7 from the 8, Henne hit Camarillo for 6 yards. On 4th and 1 from the 2 with 1:38 to play, Tony Sparano made the easy decision to go for it. Anthony Fasano scored the touchdown to pull the Dolphins within 24-22. Ricky Williams scored the 2 point conversion out of the Wildcat to make it 24-24. The teams went to overtime.

3 plays into overtime Henne was intercepted, again reminding those who complain about the overtime rules to pipe down. The Titans took over at the Miami 27, ran 3 conservative runs for a loss of one yard, and brought Rob Bironas in for the 45 yard field goal attempt. He made it. Both of these teams are 7-7 with playoff hopes, an amazing feat considering that the Titans began 0-6 and the Dolphins started 0-3. 27-24 Titans, OT

New England Patriots     @      Buffalo Bills–In a piece of irrelevant trivia, I went to graduate school with Patriots fans Kevin Nelson, Patrick Todd, and Michael Paul. Like Tom Brady, they all have two first names and no last name. The Patriots lead the division by one game against a Bills team that is shockingly not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Even more shocking was that the Bills came out and rammed it down the Patriots throats with a ridiculous 14 play, 69 yard, 9 1/2 minute drive. On 3rd and goal from the 3, a touchdown was nullified by a false start penalty. These are the Bills. A field goal had the Bills up 3-0.

Tom Brady was intercepted, but on the next New England series Brady went deep to Randy Moss in double coverage. Defensive pass interference placed the ball on the Buffalo one yard line. After offensive pass interference moved the Patriots back, Brady fired to Moss again, who made a toe tapping catch in the back of the end zone for a 13 yard touchdown to get the Patriots the 7-3 lead. At the 2 minute warning Brady went to the end zone again, this time for Wes Welker. Again, the Bills got flagged for defensive pass interference. On 3rd and goal from the one, Lawrence Maroney banged it in to put the Patriots up 14-3 with 24 seconds left in the half. The Bills did have a very long field goal attempt but Ryan Lindell hooked it as the half ended.

In the third quarter the Patriots simply ground down the Bills with basic, textbook smashmouth. Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 30 yard field goal to put the Patriots up 17-3 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched and Trent Edwards entered. Edwards sparked Buffalo by taking a sack but being lucky enough to have a defensive facemask penalty called on New England. This is offense in Buffalo. Edwards got injured and was carted off. Fitzpatrick came back in to get sacked some more. Finally with 3 minutes left Fitzpatrick hit Lee Evans for a short touchdown to get the Bills to within 17-10. The Bills recovered the onsides kick but were offsides.

With 2:08 to play, the Patriots faced 3rd and 6 at their own 32. Brady hit Wes Welker for 8 yards, allowing New England to run out the clock. The Patriots have a virtual strangehold on the division. 17-10 Patriots

Arizona Cardinals      @      Detroit Lions–Arizona missed a chance to wrap up their division, but playing against Detroit was supposed to be the tonic. Detroit fumbled the ball deep in their own territory, and Kurt Warner threw a short jump ball to Larry Fitzgerald, who made the juggling catch to have the Cardinals up 7-0. Dante Culpepper played for the injured Matthew Stafford, and Culpepper threw a perfect pass to Rogers-Cromartie, who plays defense for Arizona. That set up Tim Hightower from one yard out to make it 14-0. Arizona added a field goal to lead 17-0 at the break. Dante Culpepper was benched in favor of 3rd string Drew Stanton.

One deserved criticism of the Cardinals is their inability to finish games. They had a golden opportunity to turn out the lights in the third quarter. Instead, Warner was picked off by Delmas, who returned it 100 yards the other way to get the Lions to within 17-7. In Detroit, that is considered offense. The Lions got the ball back, and needed only one play and 11 seconds. Maurice Morris ripped off a 64 yard touchdown run and the Lions trailed only 17-14. Detroit did get the tying field goal at 17-17, and the only question would be which team would give the game away in the fourth quarter.

Shockingly enough, the Lions immediately wilted after tying the game. Warner moved the team 75 yards, with an 18 yard touchdown by Wells to put the Cardinals back in front 24-17. The Lions punted, but Steve Breaston fumbled it to set up the Lions at the Arizona 17.  With 9 1/2 minutes left, the Lions faced 4th and 1 at the 8. They ran up the middle and got stuffed, turning it over on downs. Again, each team tried their best to lose.

The Lions got the ball back with 8 minutes at their own 42. On 3rd and 2 from midfield, Stanton hit Calvin Johnson for 24 yards. On 3rd and 2 from the 18, Stanton hit Nordin for 12 yards. Stanton took it himself the final yard to tie the game 24-24 with 3:48 to play. A strong kickoff return had Arizona at their own 42. Warner hit Fitzgerald for 13 yards, and Wells ran for 34 to the Detroit 11. On 3rd and 4 from the 5, Warner hit Anquon Boldin as the Cardinals retook the lead at the 2 minute warning. The Lions turned it over on downs as the Cardinals escaped, all but locking up the NFC Worst division. 31-24 Cardinals

Houston Texans   @   St. Louis Rams–Somebody somewhere cared about this game. The Texans kicked a field goal, and the 3-0 lead may have appeared to be enough to lock up the victory over the hapless Rams. The Rams trailed 6-3 in this scintillating game as the fans demanded their money back with interest. With Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller injured, the Rams are playing their 3rd string quarterback, whose name fittingly is Null. Yet Null was not null on this day as a 2 yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola actually had the Rams up 10-6. Bob McNair is going to fire Gary Kubiak if the Texans lose this game.

Matt Schaub did lead the Texans 83 yards in 10 plays over 5 1/2 minutes in the third quarter. A 3 yard touchdown pass to Walter had the Texans up 13-10. Josh Brown nailed a 52 yard field goal to tie the game 13-13. With 8 minutes to play the Texans had the ball on their own 9. From the 14 Schaub went deep to Andre Johnson for a 30 yard gain. On the very next play Schaub went back to Johnson for a 44 yard gain. The drive bogged down and on 4th and 8 from the 10 Kris Brown nailed a 28 yard field goal to give the Texans the lead with 4 1/2 minutes to play. With 2:40 left, facing 4th and 10 near midfield, Gary Kubiak decided to punt and rely on his defense. On 3rd and 1 from the 24, Ryan Moats picked up 2 yards to run out the clock and get the Texans to 7-7. 16-13 Texans

Green Bay Packers      @      Pittsburgh Steelers–Green Bay started 4-4 but has since won 5 straight, while Pittsburgh began 6-2 and then inexplicably lost 5 straight. this was one of the finest games of the year as both offense lit up the scoreboard, the teams combined for over 900 yards of offense. Aaron Rodgers was 26 of 48 for 383 yards, and that was not even the best performance as Big Ben Roethlisberger threw for a staggering 503 yards. Both quarterbacks threw for 3 touchdowns without an interception, and the game was thrilling from the first play to the eerily similar final play.

One play and 10 seconds into the game, Big Ben went deep to Mike Wallace for a 60 yard touchdown as the Steelers led 7-0. Aaron Rodgers came back with an 83 yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings in a pinball machine game that had not even begun to get ridiculous as only 5 minutes had elapsed. Roethlisberger, who does not celebrate Hanukkah because he is not Jewish, then led a 10 play, 6 minute drive. A 2 yard run by Rashaard Mendenhall had the Steelers up 14-7. Late in the first quarter, facing 3rd and 10 from their own 27, Rodgers hit Donald Driver for 49 yards. Yet early in the second quarter, a field goal attempt missed.

Midway through the second quarter, a field position game set up Green Bay just shy of midfield. Aaron Rodgers ended up scrambling for a 14 yard touchdown to tie the game 14-14. With 3 minutes left in the half, the Steelers took over at their own 20. On 3rd and 5, Roethlisberger threw 27 yards to Heath Milelr and 33 yards to Santonio Holmes to the Green Bay 15. A 10 yard touchdown pass to Mewelde Moore with 30 seconds left in the half had the Steelers in front again at 21-14.

4 minutes into the 3rd quarter, with the Steelers facing 3rd and 8 at their own 28, Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward for 25 yards. Willie Parker picked up a pair of 9 yard gains on he ground and then Big Ben hit Ward for 17 more yards to the 14. A touchdown pass tp Mendenhall was nullified by offensive pass interference, and the Steelers settled for a field goal and a 24-14 lead with 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter after the 11 play, 6 minute drive. The Packers took over at their own 31 as Rodgers led a 13 play, 6 minute drive that extended into the fourth quarter. On 3rd and 16 from the 25 Rodgers hit Driver for 19 yards. On 3rd and 6 from the 11 Rodgers hit Finley for the touchdown as the Packers got to within 24-21 with 13 1/2 minutes left in the game.

The Steelers took over at their own 37 and hit Ward for 29 yards, leading to a field goal and a 27-21 Steelers lead with 10 minutes to play. The Packers took over at their own 38 and came right back. Rodgers hit Nelson for 27 yards and then Ryan Grant ran for a 24 yard touchdown. The Packers had their first lead of the game at 28-27, yet 7 1/2 minutes still remained in a game that was nowhere near finished. The Steelers faced 2nd and 18 at their own 23 when Big Ben fired a 54 yard bomb to Ward. With 4 minutes to go Josh Reed nailed a 43 yard field goal as the Steelers led 30-28. Then a very controversial decision was made.

The Steelers led by 2 points wit 4 minutes left, when Mike Tomlin decided to go for a surprise onsides kick. On the surface this decision seemed insane. Nobody does this. Tomlin reasoned that Rodgers was carving up his defense, and that the Packers were going to score again. If they had a short field they would score quicker, giving the Steelers the ball with enough time left for one drive. This “let them score” strategy does not sit well with me, although technically the Steeleres were playing defense. The onsides kick was recovered by Pittsburgh but was touched before it went 10 yards. The Packers took over at the Pittsburgh 39, and on 3rd and 14 from the 24, Rodgers hit Jones for the touchdown. The 2 point conversion succeeded, and the Packers led 36-30. With 2:01 to play, Pittsburgh took over at their own 14.

With 1:14 to play, facing 4th and 7 at their own 22, Big Ben fired to Holmes for 32 yards to the Green Bay 46. On 3rd and 15 from their own 44, Big Ben hit Heath Miller for 20 yards at the Green Bay 36 with 32 seconds to play. Roethlisberger was sacked on the next play, but defensive holding nullified the play and stopped the clock, but only after 8 seconds had elapsed. Roethlisberger then hit Miller for a 15 yard gain to set up 1st and 10 at the Green Bay 19 with 18 seconds to play as the Steelers took their final timeout. A pair of incomplete passes later set up one final shot with 3 seconds to play. On defensive stop meant a 6 game win streak for the Packers and hope for their division crown and first round bye, and a 6 game losing streak from the Steelers and playoff elimination.

Instead the game ended exactly as it begun. In a play eerily reminiscent of Holmes’s winning toe tap Super Bowl winning catch, Roethliberger fired to Mike Wallace, whp somehow got both feet down with control of the ball for the miracle finish. A blocked extra point would have meant 36-36 and overtime, but the kick was good and the Steelers had won a thriller 37-36 to get to 7-7 and stave off elimination. The onsides kick decision did not end their season, although Tomlin will still face questions about it. The Packers will not win their division but are in strong wild card contention, while the Steelers still have life. For fans everywhere, this is why we watch football. 37-36 Steelers

San Francisco 49ers  @ Philadelphia Eagles–This was one of two games that was moved from an early game to a late game due to a snowstorm. A San Francisco team clinging to the faintest of playoff hopes traveled to face a Philly team hoping to move closer to locking up their division. The Eagles went right to work, as Demps returned the opening kickoff to midfield, and Donovan McNabb threw a 19 yard touchdown pass to Deshean Jackson to quickly get the Eagles up 7-0. Alex Smith did lead the 49ers in position for Joe Nedney to kick a 51 yard field goal to get San Francisco within 7-3.

Andy Reid is an excellent coach, but the main weakness for the Eagles under his tenure is the lack of a bruising running back to pick up 3rd and 1. Late in the first quarter he brought in Michael Vick to try and pick it up, which failed. Then on 4th and 1 from his own 29, Andy Reid lost his mind and turned into Barry Switzer. In 1995, in a game between the Dallas and Philadelphia tied 17-17 late in the fourth quarter, Dallas Coach Switzer gambled on 4th and 1 from his own 29. Emmett Smith got stuffed by the Eagles defense, allowing Philadelphia to kick the winning field goal 20-17. This time Philadelphia was gambling, and again it failed. Luckily for the Eagles, the 49ers fumbled the ball right back at the Philly 6 yard line.

McNabb then needed only 5 miutes to move the Eagles 94 yards. A 43 yard pass to Captain Morgan Brent Celek led to a 3rd and 7 at the San Francisco 8, where McNabb scrambled for the touchdown himself to put the Eagles up 14-3. Alex Smith was then intercepted, setting up the Eagles at the San Francisco 28. The Eagles failed to convert on 3rd and 5 form the 10, but a defensive penalty gave the Eagles 1st down at the 5. As expected, Andy Reid tried one run for only one yard, gave up on the run, and a couple of incomplete passes later a field goal had the Eagles up 17-3. With 36 seconds left in the half, Smith was intercepted again, setting up the Eagles at the San Francisco 29. McNabb fired 21 yards to Avant to set up David Akers for the chip shot field goal just before the half to have the Eagles cruising 20-3.

The 49ers had life when a long kickoff return had the starting the second half at the Philly 43. On 4th and 3 from the 36 Mike Singletary decided to go for it, and Smith hit Morgan for 22 yards. Yet on 4th and 3 from the 7, Singletary opted for the field goal as the 49ers pulled to within 20-6. McNabb was then promptly intercepted, setting up the 49ers at the Philly 35. On 4th and 5 from the 30, Singletary again went for it rather than attempt the field goal. Smith hit Vernon Davis for 15 yards, and then went to Morgan for the 12 yard touchdown to make it a 20-13 game.

Yet seconds into the fourth quarter, with the Eagles facing 3rd and 2 at their own 19, McNabb went deep to Deshean Jackson for a 59 yard gain. The Eagles faced 2nd and 1 from the 2, and a run failed. Yet for once Andy Reid stuck with the run, and McCoy ran it in to lock up the victory. The 49ers were eliminated form playoff contention while the Eagles at 10-4 have a one game lead in their division and even still have an outside shot at a first round bye. 27-13 Eagles

Chicago  Bears    @      Baltimore Ravens–This was the other game that was moved from morning to afternoon due to the Eastern snowstorm. When a bad team plays on the road at a good team, the potential upset usually does not occur. Joe Flacco was 21 of 29 for 234 yards and 4 touchdown passes while Jay Cutler was 10 of 27 for 94 yards and 3 interceptions. The statistics did not lie in this case as Lovie Smith saw the misery of the Bears continue.

Cutler’s first interception set up the Ravens at their own 48. Ray Rice picked up 28 yards and Flacco hit Todd Heap for a 14 yard touchdown and 7-0 Ravens lead. Cutler moved the Bears to the Baltimore 14 but was then intercepted again. Ray Rice ripped off another 28 yard gain, and Flacco hit Heap for 20 yards and then for the 7 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 and end any suspense.

In the second quarter Cutler led a staggering 19 play, 8 1/2 minute drive. Yet 3 cracks from the one yard line produced a failed run inbetween a pair of incomplete passes as the Ravens, perhaps not what they once were on defense, had the goal line stand. The victory was short lived as the Ravens punted out of their own end zone, and Bennett returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. This is what the Bears count as offense, as they were within 14-7. With 1:21 left in the half Billy Cundiff missed a 30 yard field goal that would have extended the lead. Despite dominating the Ravens only led by one score at intermission.

The Ravens slammed the door shut on both sides of the ball in the second half. Flacco threw a 32 yard touchdown to Williams to make it 21-7. The Bears fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing the Ravens to take over at the Chicago 29. An 18 yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason had the Ravens coasting at 28-7 only 5 minutes into the second half. The Bears went into hibernation weeks ago, and the Ravens soon followed in the rest of this game, with only one more field goal adding to the lack of excitement. The Ravens at 8-6 are only one game back in their division, and in a strong wildcard position. The Bears are who we thought they were. 31-7 Ravens

Oakland  Raiders    @      Denver Broncos–For more on the game of the day, go to

The Raiders are out of the playoffs with their 7th straight losing season, while the Broncos seemed in good position at 8-5. Last year the Raiders went into Denver and shocked the Broncos 31-10 to help knock them from contention and end the Shanahan reign. Yet Tom Cable has been saddled this year with a dreadful regressing JaMarcus Russell. At 2-8, Cable relegated Russell to the bench, and Bruce Gradkowski came in and sparked the team. Yet Gradkowski went down with an injury, forcing Russell into a game last week where he nearly singlehandedly helped the team lose. Russell was so far in the doghouse that Cable announced 3rd string Charlie Frye as the starter, and even drafted JP Losman from the UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives. As long as Russell did not play, the Raiders had a chance.

The Raiders went 3 and out, and Kle Orton led the Broncos on a 10 play drive from the Denver 35. With the Broncos facing 2nd and 4 from the Oakland, Orton gained only one yard. On 3rd and  from the 6, the Silver and Black came up big on defense, stopping Knowshon Moreno for a one yard gain. On 4th and 2 form the 5, Josh McDaniels opted for the field goal and a 3-0 Denver lead.

Charlie Frye was then intercepted, setting up Denver at the Oakland 41. Orton then hit Marshall for 24 yards down to the 17. Again the defense stiffened with a sack of Orton and the Broncos settled for a 43 yard field goal and a 6-0 lead. As is typical of the Raiders, the defense played hard, and the slightest hint of offense was all they asked for. In the second quarter they got it.

From the Oakland 34, Frye scrambled for 26 yards to the Denver 40. On 3rd and 5 from the 35, Frye hit Johnny Lee Higgins for 12 yards. On the next play Michael Bush ran for a 23 yard touchdown and the Raiders had the 7-6 lead. Denver punted, and the Raiders took over at their own 35. A roughing the passer penalty had the Raiders near midfield. On 3rd and 6 from the Denver 48, Frye hit Louis Murphy for 7 yards. On 4th and 6 from the 37, Cable brought in Sebastian Janikowski for a 54 yard field goal. Seabass drilled it as the Raiders led 10-6.

Denver punted again, and the Raiders took over with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half at their own 28. On 3rd and 9 from the Oakland 39, with the Broncos expecting pass, Michael Bush picked up 13 yards on the ground. From the Denver 44, Frye hit Murphy for 14 yards, and Bush ran for 13 more to the 17 with 1:14 left in the half. Yet on 3rd and 3 from the 10, the Raiders missed a golden chance to do some damage before the half.  Frye fired incomplete and Seabass nailed a 28 yard field goal as the Raiders led 13-6 at halftime.

The Broncos started the second half at their own 20, and Orton led them in 12 plays to the Oakland 33. The defense stiffened again, but Prater nailed a 51 yard kick as the Broncos were within 13-9. Midway through the third quarter Darren McFadden and the Broncos recovered at midfield. Orton hit Marshall for 19 yards, and then tossed the  yard touchdown to Marshall as the Broncos led 16-13 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. As always, all the defense asked was that the offense not give the game away.

The Raiders took over at their own 11 and then exploded on the ground. Bush picked up 18 yards, and on the next play he rambled for 40 yards to the Denver 31. Darren McFadden then ran for 28 yards to set up 1st and goal at the Denver 3. 79 yards on 3 running plays meant that the Raiders should keep it on the ground, which Cable rightly did. Bush picked up one yard on first down and 1 yard on 2nd down to set up 3rd and goal at the 1. Cable decided to run it again, but instead of ramming Bush straight ahead, he sent Bush off tackle. This was a mistake, and the Broncos blew it up in the backfield for a 2 yard loss.

On 4th and goal from the 3, Cable decided to go for it. This was mind boggling. The Raiders were down by 3 on the road on the first play of the fourth quarter. I give Cable all the credit for wanting to win, but the tying field goal with a defense playing well made sense. Going for it did not. Cable did call a very good play, and Frye faked left and pitched it to McFadden right. Yet the speedster took it inside rather than go wide outside. McFadden was stopped inside the one, and the Broncos had their goal line stand and the lead.

On 3rd and 1 from the 10, Orton failed to run for the 1st down, and Cable’s strategy appeared to work in terms of field position until a booming punt had the Raiders taking over at their own 40. From the Denver 48, with 11 minute to play, disaster struck when Frye got blasted and was slammed to the ground. Te hit appeared legal, and with everything on the line, the worst of all possible worlds occurred as JaMarcus Russell had to come in to the game. JP Losman had just joined the team earlier in the week, so even Russell was deemed a better option. The team immediately faded, and a promising drive went backwards. The Raiders punted, and Denver took over at their own 19 with 9 1/2 minutes to play.

On 3rd and 7 from the 33, Orton hit Stokely on a short pass as Stokely raced into the open field. He was eventually run down on a touchdown saving tackle after 63 yards, but the Broncos had 1st and goal at the 2. The decision not to kick the field goal loomed large for the Raiders, as their defense again needed to step up. Again they did. A pair of incomplete pass sandwiched around Moreno getting blasted for a 1 yard loss led to a field goal. The Broncos led 19-13 with 6 minutes to play in regulation. The Raiders had hope, but the final 6 minutes were going to be a war of attrition. JaMarcus Russell was being asked to lead a win.

Naturally Russell failed, and the Raiders went 3 and out. Denver got the ball back with 4 minutes left as Cable decided to rely on his defense, which had been stout when needed. The defense sacked Orton, as the Broncos used only 30 seconds of clock. The Raiders took over at their own 38 with 3 1/2 minutes to play. Russell was then sacked and fumbled. The Raiders fell on it for a 13 yard loss for 2nd and 23. This is JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders needed a miracle to overcome Russell’s ineptitude, and they got one. A deep pass to Murphy was incomplete, but defensive pass interference led to a 32 yard gain to the Denver 43. There was enough time for the Raiders to run the ball and not let Russell throw anything.

Russell fired incomplete on 1st and 2nd down, but on 2nd down Russell got rocked. For the first time in my life, as much as it pains me, I wanted him to stay down. I wished him no harm, but did not want him to play any more. JP Losman came into the game. With no preparation, no reps, and no chance, Losman was asked to come in on 3rd and 10 with 2 1/2 minutes to play. Losman fired incomplete before getting belted. He finally got up, but with 4th and 10, Cable had a decision to make. Gradkowski tried to walk on 2 bad knees, and Charlie Frye insisted he could remember his own name and point to his nose while suffering the concussion. Not a chance. Cable chose Russell over Losman.

Russell hit Stewart for 11 yards to the Denver 32. The Raiders were alive at the 2 minute warning. Russell hit Stewart for 9 yards and Chaz Schillens for 13 more as Denver took a timeout with one minute remaining and the Raider facing 1st and goal at the 10. Russell fired incomplete on 1st down and completed a 4 yard pass on 2nd down. Yet illegal contact on the defense gave the Raiders 1st and goal at the 5. The Raiders returned the favor with a false start. From the 10, Russell fired incomplete on 1st down but on 2nd down hit Schillens for the touchdown. In front of a shocked Denver crowd that celebrated the win the moment Russell took the field, the Raiders led 20-19 with 35 seconds remaining as Seabass nailed the extra point.

Denver got the ball at their own 22, and Orton was sacked for a 7 yard loss on 1st down as Denver took their final timeout. This was key a Denver faced 4th and 15 at their own 17 with 13 seconds left. Orton heaved a 39 yard pass to Tony Scheffler, who caught it between 3 defenders at the Oakland 46. Yet Denver was out of timeouts, and before a Hail Mary could be attempted, the clock ran out. The Raider had pulled off a shocker.

I still say that JaMarcus is the 3rd best, and maybe even 4th best, of the Raiders quarterbacks. He absolutely must sit the moment another qb is healthy, so he can learn and develop. There is a ray of hope for him, and this game showed that he is not a lost cause. Yet it was the defense that saved the day repeatedly, as the Raiders have won 3 of 4 games, mostly without Russell. Tom Cable deserves a ton of credit for keeping this team together in the most brutal of circumstances. This truly was one of the all time great wins for the Raiders in this bitter rivalry. 20-19 Raiders

Cincinnati Bengals      @      San Diego Chargers–A pair of very good teams played an even better game. The Bengals, already reeling from the loss of the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, had to deal with the tragic death of troubled Chris Henry, under very suspicious circumstances. If the 9-4 Bengals could go on the road and beat the 10-3 Chargers, the Bengals would have the inside track on the #2 seed and 1st round bye. The Chargers were looking to place a stranglehold on the # 2 slot. Carson Palmer was 27 for 40 with 314 yards and 2 touchdowns ans one interception. Philip Rivers was 24 of 38 for 308 yards and 3 touchdowns with 2 interceptions.

Darren Sproles ran the opening kickoff to the San Diego 45, and a pair of 3rd down conversions by Ladanian Tomlinson led to Rivers hitting Antonio Gates for a 3 yard touchdown and 7-0 Chargers lead. 12 plays and 6 minutes later Palmer had the Bengals at the San Diego 8 yard line, but they got no further, settling for a field goal and a 7-3 game. In the second quarter, from the San Diego 49, Palmer went deep to Chad Johnson for the touchdown. As the Bengals led 10-7, Johnson went to both knees and prayed, and then cried on the sidelines over his fallen teammate Johnson.

Rivers was then intercepted, but the Bengals did not capitalize. With 3 minutes left in the half, Rivers hit Vincent Jackson for a 21 yard touchdown to put the Chargers back on top 14-10. With 3 minutes left in the half Palmer moved the Bengals from their own 18. A 27 yard run by Larry Johnson and passes of 20 and 9 yards to Laverneous Coles had the Bengals on the move. The Bengals could not get past the 7 yard line, and a field goal as the half ended had the Chargers on top 14-13.

Midway through the third quarter Palmer was intercepted, setting up the Chargers at the Cincy 40. Rivers then hit Vincent Jackson for a 34 yard touchdown to give the Chargers a 21-13 lead. The Bengals then punted, and a short pass from Rivers to Tomlinson went for 27 yards to set upa  Nate Kaeding field goal and a 24-13 Chargers advantage. Yet in the fourth quarter it was the Bengals that clawed back.

Rivers was intercepted early in the fourth quarter, setting up the Bengals at the San Diego 33. Chad Johnson ran for 26 yards, and Palmer hit Coles for the 2 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion succeeded, and the Bengals were within 24-21 with a full 12 1/2 minutes to play. San Diego bled 5 minutes of clock and then  punted. Palmer moved the Bengals methodically down the field, but disaster struck in the red zone with 2 1/2 minutes left. Facing 1st and 10 at the San Diego 19, a false start was followed by a fumble that resulted in a 20 yard loss. 2nd and 36 became 3rd and 30. Palmer hit Cosby for 23 yards to make it 4th and 7. The tying field goal was good with 57 seconds left. Yet the Bengals scored too early.

From the 20, Rivers hit Sproles for 11 yards and Jackson for 20 more just past midfield. 15 more yards from Rivers to Floyd set up Kaeding from 52 yards out with 8 seconds remaining. With a 1st round by likely on the line, Kaeding drilled it. Bengals players cried over their fallen teammate, and their valiant effort to get the win for him. San Diego has won 9 straight, and Norv Turner is getting closer to being removed from the Dick Jauron/Dave Wannstedt/Ray Rhodes overrated list. Yes the Chargers are built to win, but they are winning. They pretty much have the # 2 seed, while the Bengals only have a one game lead in their division. 27-24 Chargers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers     @      Seattle Seahawks–The Seahawks are a bad team, but at home against an even worse team signaled a win. The game was even worse than expected, with results not expected. Apparently the Seahawks are convinced that the Walrus Mike Holmgren is going to Cleveland because they did not play with fear or urgency. Matt Hasselbeck was intercepted 4 times.Jon Gruden is still in the Monday Night Football booth, which is bad for both teams needing leadership. Josh Freeman was intercepted, and Hasselbeck fumbled it right back.

Seattle did manage to reach 4th and goal at the 4, but fumbled the snap on the field goal attempt and this awful game stayed scoreless. In the second quarter Raheem Morris decided not to gamble when the Buccaneers faced 4th and 1 at the Seattle 19. The field goal was no good, and 0-0 looked like a potential final score. With 4 1/2 minutes left in the half Hasselbeck hit Carlson for a 29 yard touchdown as the Seahawks led 7-0 in a game where that score might hold up. With one minute left in the half, the Seahawks faced 3rd and 14 at their own 28. Rather than run and punt, Hasselbeck was intercepted, allowing the Buccaneers to kick a field goal and trail 7-3 at the half.

The Buccaneers took the second half kickoff and moved 10 plays in 6 minutes, with a 45 yard field goal getting them within 7-6. Hasselbeck was then again intercepted deep in his own territory. From the Seattle 22, Josh Freeman needed one play and 8 seconds to throw the touchdown pass to  Cadillac Williams to put the Buccaneers up 13-7. Seattle went backwards and punted, with a strong return setting up the Buccaneers at the Seattle 37. On 3rd and 10 Freeman his Stroughter for 16 yards, and then hit Stroughter again for 9 yards on 3rd and 7. On 3rd and goal from the 6 Freeman hit Ward for the touchdown. The 2 point conversion had the Buccaneers up 21-7. The 4th quarter saw the Buccaneers add another field goal as the Bucs got their second win and the Seahawks reverted back to the Seahags. 24-7 Buccaneers

Minnesota Vikings     @      Carolina Panthers was the Sunday night game. Minnesota had clinched their division with the Green Bay loss, and were in a strong position for the # 2 seed, with a chance to even get the top seed and home field throughout with the New Orleans loss. They were playing a desperate Carolina team fighting for survival at home.The first 3 quarters were a defensive bonelock.

In the second quarter, Matt Moore, playing for an injured Jake Delhomme, led a 15 play, 8 minute drive that covered 71 yards. Moore hit Hoover from one yard out for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked as the Panthers led 6-0. A field position game eventually had the Vikings starting a drive at the Carolina 41. Adrian Peterson ran it in from 4 yards out to have the Vikings leading 7-6 at halftime. A scoreless 3rd quarter in a brutal game was magnified by controversy on the Minnesota sideline and magnified by the media.

Despite leading 7-6, Brett Favre was getting knocked around. In what may be an unprecedented move, Coach Brad Childress, who is Catholic and bald, benched the left tackle. Another left tackle came in with similar results. Childress even talked to Favre about coming out of the game, and Favre insisted on staying in. The media blew this up into a battle for control of the team, but last week it was the Randy Moss non-scandal and this week it was the Favre-Childress non-event. Childress coaches the team, and had he absolutely ordered Favre to sit that would have been it. Favre has never been benched in his career other than to keep him healthy in a lost cause, and while he is needed for the playoffs, the Vikings were winning this game.

Yet while Minnesota is loaded with superstars, John Fox has a superstar on his team as well, in the form of all world receiver Steve Smith. Seconds into the fourth quarter the Panthers were facing 3rd and 26 from the Minnesota 42. Moore went deep to Smith for a 42 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion failed but the Panthers led 12-7. Despite playing well all game, the Minnesota defense had a critical breakdown. Minnesota then punted, and the Panthers offense came alive. From their own 23, Jimmy Stewart picked up 23 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the Minnesota 48, Moore again went deep to Smith, this time for a 45 yard gain down to the 3. Stewart ran it in, and the extra point had the Panthers up 19-7 with 9 1/2 minutes to play.

The Vikings punted again, and the Panthers took over at their own 20. On 3rd and 9, Moore hit Smith for 16 yards. From the 40, Moore went deep, this time to somebody who was not Steve Smith. Barnidge caught the 55 yard gain at the Minnesota 5.  On 3rd and goal at the 3 Moore hit Stewart for the touchdown to ice it with 3 minutes left. Favre tried to rally Minnesota, and the first play from scrimmage was a short pass to Adrian Peterson that he took for a 63 yard gain down to the Carolina 16. On the next play, a rushed Favre underthrew a ball that was intercepted in the end zone.

After the game Favre pointed out that while the Vikings had lost 2 of 3, a lot of teams in the league would like to be 11-3, including the team that beat them. Those that are trying to show this as Favre fading down the stretch like last year fail to grasp that last year he was injured. This year he is healthy. Also, Percy Harvin was injured and sat out this game. When he gets healthy the Vikings will have as good a shot as anybody to win it all, and Childress knows this. The Vikings are are all but unable to win the top seed in the NFC, and are only one game ahead of Philadelphia for the # 2 seed. However, they have clinched their division. As for the Panthers, they are alive at 7-7, as they and Jon Fox fight to survive. 26-7 Panthers

N.Y. Giants      @      Washington Redskins was the Monday night game.The Giants had everything to play for, and the Redskins did not. Both teams played like it, as this game was over from the start. Eli Manning led the Giants on a 16 play, 80 yard, 9 1/2 minute drive that ended when Ahmad Bradshaw banged it on on 3rd and goal from the 3 to put the Giants up 7-0. The Redskins punted, and the Giants then moved 11 plays in 5 minutes. Bradshaw ran it in from 4 yards out as the Giants led 14-0 seconds into the second quarter.

At that point the Giants had run 27 plays to only 3 for Washington. The giants started their next drive in Washington territory, but Manning was sacked on 3rd and 7 from the 10. A field goal had Big Blue up 17-0. On the next drive Manning went deep to Hakeem Nicks for 45 yards to set up Manning to Smith from 5 yards out to make it 24-0. The Redskins still had 0 first downs and negative yardage at this point. The Redskins did get deep near the end of the half, but on the last play, rather than kick a field goal, Jim ZOrn opted for a fake that fooled nobody and was intercepted.

In the third quarter Jason Campbell hit Cartwright for a 51 yard gain to set up an 11 yard toss to Davis as the Redskins finally got on the board. The extra point was blocked as the Redskins were down 24-6 and got no closer. The Giants came right back as Manning hit Hagan for a 23 yard touchdown pass to make it 31-6. Campbell was then intercepted by Thomas, who took it 14 yards for a touchdown to have the Giants romping at 38-6. Ganther scored on a one yard run to make it 38-12, but Manning came back in the fourth quarter with a 25 yard touchdown mass to Manningham, his third touchdown pass of the day. Tom Coughlin has the Giants clinging to playoff hopes at 8-6, one game behind Dallas for the final spot. 45-12 Giants


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